“But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD…paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”
– Jonah 1.3
Last week we looked an idea that Jonah might not be such a bad guy because who among us wouldn’t at least take a serious pause and ask “them?” before responding to God’s call to go show mercy to our biggest oppressors and enemies?
So Jonah responds like many of us would…he does the opposite of what God asks as if to show how unqualified we are to do it.
What makes it even more interesting is the phrase “to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” and its said twice.
In Jonah’s mind there’s a place where God is and a place where he isn’t.
Nineveh was a land of violent oppressors and generally mean people.
Tarshish wasn’t just geographically the opposite it was culturally the opposite. It was a beautiful place. Think biblical Hawaii. The beauty of God’s creation on full display. Constant sunshine.
That seems like something we might say, right? We go on vacation and say “look at how beautiful it is! God is such an amazing Creator!”
But Jonah is going there to get away from the presence of the LORD.
On the flip side, think of the dark places where there are wounded people, oppressed people. Those who are stuck in a cycle with no hope of breaking free.
And that’s where Jonah knows God is.
Because Jonah knows that God’s presence is often felt the strongest in the dark places where he is most needed.
He knows that God is Mercy, Love, Grace and Forgiveness and wants to do something unheard of in the people of Nineveh who are in their spiritual darkness and spreading it with their oppression.
It is often in the orphanage that you can feel God’s presence through those who volunteer to help.
It is in the areas where humans are trafficked and God’s powered is displayed as group band together to rescue them from the darkness.
It is in the darkness of our souls when we receive a deep wound or news and our friends and loved ones rally around us with God’s light and love that he is most strongly felt.
There is a place God is:
It is the dark places looking for someone to share his light.
And there’s a place he isn’t (according to Jonah):
The places where everything seems beautiful and lovely.
We want to experience the presence of God but we’re looking in the places he isn’t.
If we truly want to experience God we must run to where he is: the darkness.
Go to the communities that need his love.
The city on the brink.
The coworker without hope.
The friend who has had heartbreak.
We rush into the darkness and we go with his light, grace and mercy to be where God is.